I was wanting to make a lich character, but my DM doesn't allow evil characters. I was wondering if there could be a good lich (that is not an archlich).
The description in the MM seems to indicate that yes, all liches are necessarily evil:
Wizards that seek lichdom must make bargains with fiends, evil gods, or other foul entities. [..] A lich must periodically feed souls to its phylactery to sustain the magic preserving its body and consciousness. [..] A creature imprisoned in the phylactery for 24 hours is consumed and destroyed utterly.. (MM 203)
The process that creates and sustains a lich requires them to destroy the souls of others. This is an act that no Good creature would even contemplate, and I think even Neutrals would abhor.
Workarounds to a DM decision likely won't be helpful
I'm going to answer as a frame challenge. Your DM has made a ruling on evil characters and per the Monster Manual a Lich is evil (page 203). Instead of looking for a loophole, discuss with your DM why you want to play a lich and see if there's a way both of you can make it work. If the ruling is no, let it go.
If you are looking for a rules citation ... a lich is evil by default
The stat block of a Lich for D&D 5e has the following in black and white:
Medium undead, any evil alignment
Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points 135 (18d8 + 54)
Speed 30 ft. (SRD page 325)
Lich defaults to evil in the rule book.
A lich must periodically feed souls to its phylactery to sustain the magic preserving its body and consciousness (MM p. 203)
Looks to be evil by nature. The lich consumes souls the way you or I might consume a breakfast taco or a milkshake. If that isn't innately evil, it's close enough not to make a difference.
Variations on the lich, like the baelnorn or archlich from previous editions, have not yet arrived in the official canon of D&D 5e monsters. That means that for the time being, all liches are evil subject to a DM ruling otherwise at a given table.
Since your DM has made the ruling not to allow evil characters, and a lich is evil, suggests to me that you either
- Need to come up with a compelling story/character development based reason for this in-character goal, and work with your DM on a path to that goal, or,
Need to respect the DM's ruling and keep playing with the rest of the group.
As @guildsbounty noted in a comment:
Liches are incredibly powerful. This is the sort of goal that a player would more likely pursue throughout a long-running campaign, and achieve at the very end of the campaign, either for a big final epic showdown, or as part of the epilogue that is not actually gameplay.
It was noted in this answer that determining the in-game details of "how to become a Lich" places a burden on the DM. Perhaps your DM would prefer, for the time being, not to add to DM workload and complications. Perhaps as you get to a higher in level you can revisit this idea with the DM.
If you don't have a copy of the Monster Manual, which has a more extended treatment of what a Lich is, you can take a look at the lich in detail in the SRD freely available from WoTC.
In theory, a Lich could potentially be non-evil but...it's going to be extremely complicated and require some....significant moral gymnastics.
The Monster Manual lists the alignment of a Lich as 'Any Evil,' but it also tells DMs that this is the 'Default' and they should be willing to
depart from it and change a monster's alignment to suit the needs of your campaign.
But in this case....
The method to become and remain a 'proper' Lich is not a pleasant one
The d20 SRD says this
The process of becoming a lich is unspeakably evil and can be undertaken only by a willing character.
The 5E Monster Manual says this
Wizards that seek lichdom must make bargains with fiends, evil gods, or other foul entities. [...] those that control the power of lichdom always demand fealty and service for their knowledge
With its phylactery prepared, the future lich drinks a potion of transformation - a vile concoction of poison mixed with the blood of a sentient creature whose soul is sacrificed to the phylactery.
A lich must periodically feed souls to its phylactery to sustain the magic preserving its body and consciousness.
In short...Liches bargain with immensely evil creatures for knowledge that allows them devour the souls of sentient life forms in order to continue existing as undead. This eliminates a chance of both resurrection and afterlife for those you devour.
That's....pretty dang evil.
You're going to have to do some rather significant moral gymnastics to justify swearing fealty to a dark god, then routinely murdering sentient creatures and eating their souls and not call yourself (or have your DM call you) 'Evil.'
(That's essentially the whole point of why the Archlich was invented. Provide an 'everliving spellcaster' that wasn't evil.)
A Lich is defined as always evil in every iteration of the Monster Manual that I have read. This fits with the kinds of rituals that are generally given as requirements for becoming one. They're not generally fuzzy, cuddly things that need to be done, and even a neutral character would likely shy away from them, let alone a good one.
Depending on your setting you might potentially ask if you could play as a Baelnorn. A Baelnorn is a Lich that was created by non-evil means from a willing, non-evil creature. As such, some of their abilities are different, and their existence may be bounded by completion of some task or other limits, but they are not evil creatures.
Setting is important though. In some settings the negative energy that animates undead is inherently evil in nature and no matter how good an undead creature was to begin with it will eventually be driven to the dark side. In such a setting your Baelnorn may need to make periodic saves against turning evil and/or be fitted with a self-destruct mechanism in case it turns.
Ask your DM
In most D&D settings, no, there cannot be a non-evil lich because nearly-all undead are innately evil and the lich in particular is generally well known for being super-evil. Liches voluntarily destroy their soul in a mad attempt to achieve immediate power and material immortality at the expense of spiritual immortality and long-term gains. Generally, you can't do that and not end up evil in most D&D settings.
That said, 5e is clearly trying to move away from typical alignment constraints on just about everything else, so your DM might be willing to alter their setting to include the possibility of homebrew non-evil lich-like creatures. Whether or not that is a possibility is entirely up to your DM and, while I expect the answer is 'no', it doesn't hurt to ask.
You have other options, though
Since your DM forbade the lich on the grounds that it's evil, and given that you are asking in the first place, it sounds like they are open to non-standard races for PCs. Depending on what you mean by 'lich' you might be able to use another, non-evil, monster and get things to work.
If what you want is an undead PC, consider porting some of the not-evil undead from earlier editions forward. There's an okay resource for that here, which covers Necropolitans, Deathless, Dhampir, and a weird ghost-ish thing.
If what you want is a nearly-immortal PC that comes back a week or so later when they are killed, consider porting the Ghoran from Pathfinder. I don't believe there's a 5e adaptation yet, so you'd need to get your DM to make one.
First off,as others have pointed out, to become a Lich you must undergo an extremely evil process. And once that is done, to keep being one, you have to keep feeding souls to your phylactery. Meaning that when you decide to become a lich, you must be pretty warped, and/or in very, very deep despair.
However I can imagine a scenario where a Lich can become good - after a few hundred years of lichdom, for some reason the Lich sees the light and realizes the error of her ways.
Perhaps her original reason for living forever was eternal love and she realizes it's warped and stupid. Or she wanted enough time to plot a revenge and the object of her vengeance died on its own, etc.. Tons of reasons. So she decides to roam the word and fix her mistakes, using her power to undo her own abominations. Or maybe she decides to do a trip to the land where she lived hundred of years ago in hope of finding some inner peace or a purpose to fill before passing away. etc...
There's the problem of the phylactery. We don't know what "periodically" means. Maybe she fed a very powerful soul last and she has half a century of "battery". Perhaps she only has one year, or a few months and in that case that's also interesting from a roleplay point of view; because for all we know what awaits a lich after death is not pleasant in the least. She could also decide to only use the souls of sinners for soul food (though I dislike that idea personally), she could be so determined to fill her purpose that she will not hesitate to fill her phylactery with souls of random passerbys if it means she can achieve it, (making a tragic Neutral character, not necessarily evil - accepting her own damnation) or her sanity could be damaged so much that she is convinced that feeding on some people is ok as long as it's meeting some weird requirements, I don't know.
Anyways.. this starting point is allowing all kinds of non evil alignments depending on the details and that's just one idea I had.
Obviously it's up to your GM to accept it.. or not =)
P.S. I use 'her' for the Lich as it feels more natural to me (it's feminine in french) there is no other reason.
It depends on how creative your DM wants your canon to be. There may be specific 'suggested' rules that define a lich to be quite evil.
Let us, for a moment, imagine a process whereby someone in a near-modern scenario might accomplish the purpose of becoming a lich. We could imagine that there were a process to upload one's memories to a machine (or a network), and thereby achieve a form of immortality.
Let us pull inspiration from some of Roger Zelazny's work. In the 'Merlin Cycle', he had a character create a kind of sentient computer whose internal logic is handled by arcane constructs. It might not be too far-fetched an idea that in a setting with gods, demons, astral-travel, many different planes, etc, for a concept of a kind of 'computer' to be created by a brilliant wizard. Or that a network could be formed from several of these types of creations... or that a person could upload their mind to such a network, thereby achieving a kind of immortality.
There could be a variety of non-evil reasons for a wizard to do this. Knowledge is their passion, knowledge is their raison-d'etre. So, they'd be willing to shed their mortal ties for the opportunity to seek out new magics, new ideas, and to continue onwards forwards through time to see the ages come and pass, to eventually transcend even the network into ever more mysterious, ever deeper layers of reality.
It might not be canon to the setting provided by Wizards of the Coast for 5e DnD, but they make their living creating new settings, nothing is stopping you from creating one of your own.